Until recently, Austin was a sleepy little town with two, 3 lane freeways. Now, Austin is a booming metroplex with 170 people relocating to Austin per day and it still has the same two, 3 lane freeways. Just how bad is traffic in Austin? Not nearly as bad as it is in places like LA, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta, but honestly, it’s not great. We’ve lived here 5 years and we’ve noticed the traffic getting worse each year. But, with some proper planning and awareness of traffic patterns, we have been able to avoid the worst traffic as we navigate Austin.
35 is a Parking Lot Virtually All Day, Everyday
It used to be 35 was only busy during peak commute hours. Not anymore. I always slow down to a crawl in two places on 35 – through Downtown Austin and in Round Rock at 35 and 45. During peak commute hours, you can expect to a slow down from about William Cannon to 183.
What are the Other Trouble Traffic Spots in Austin?
We usually see a back up at William Cannon on 35 or MoPac, then again at the River (Lady Bird Lake), even though there is no bridge or no reason for the traffic to slow down. Most freeway interchanges do back up somewhat, because these usually have only 1 lane. In the mornings, traffic is heavy from 183/620 to Central Austin and from 1626 to Central Austin.
MoPac Can be a Good Alternate
Because MoPac only runs from North to South Austin and ends, it is not as well traveled as 35. Usually it is only backed up during commute hours, which runs from about 7:30am-9am and then again from about 3:45-6:15pm. Currently, they are working to expand MoPac, so hopefully that will alleviate some of the slow down.
Austin Traffic Tip: Use East/West Arteries as Much as Possible
Our east/west arteries (290, 45, 71) are much less traveled than our north/south arteries. Most of the traffic commutes from north to south. If you find a home east or west of where you work, you’ll spend much less time in the car.
Live in Central Austin
Central Austin is a good home base for someone who needs to commute north or south. Most people are commuting from North or South Austin to somewhere Central. If you start Central, you are usually traveling the opposite direction of traffic.
Use 130 As Much as Possible
Yes 130 is a toll road. No, it is not cheap. But, if your sanity is important, 130 will be your go to north/south road when you have to travel during peak gridlock hours like Friday nights.
Work Remotely or on Flex Hours if You Can
If you have a job where you can work remotely or work flex hours, take advantage. You’ll get more free time and spend less time traveling to and from work if you can work around the peak traffic hours. Even leaving at 7am versus 7:30am, will usually help save you a great deal of drive time.
Live in a Neighborhood Closer to the Freeway Entrance
I spend a lot of time just getting to the freeway. School zone slow downs, traffic lights and one lane roads tend to waste a lot of time. I would cut off a solid 15-25 minutes from my drive time if I lived in a neighborhood that was closer to a freeway entrance. If you want to live on the opposite side of town from where you work, but want to minimize time on the road, focus your search on neighborhoods that have easy access to a freeway entrance.
Live on the Side of the River You Commute To
Traffic always backs up at Lady Bird Lake on MoPac and 35 even though there is no bridge and no reason for it to jam. If you stay on one side of the river for the majority of your daily activities, you’ll spend less time in the car.
Where to Live If You Commute to Downtown
Live in Central Austin or South Austin, Buda or Kyle if you can. You can either take MoPac, 35 or Manchaca, 1st or Congress, giving you options. Traffic from South Austin to Downtown is usually lighter than traffic from North Austin to Downtown.
How to Monitor Traffic When You Don’t Live in Austin
What I like to do is check Google Maps/Traffic during peak commute hours and plot a commute. If you do this over the course of a few days, you’ll get a good sense for how long it will take you door to door, on average.
Austin Traffic Eases During Summer Months
When school is out, traffic eases up quite a bit. You don’t sit in school zones, UT students are not clogging up the road and those who can’t stand the heat tend to get out of the city. Those who make their first visit to Austin during the Summer (especially early August), will not notice as much traffic as those who visit any other time of the year.
Considering a Move to Austin? Want to Minimize Traffic on Your Commute?
We can help! We know the Austin area better than any other Austin Realtor and specialize in buyers who are relocating to Austin. With just a bit more info from you, we can help recommend areas that fit your needs best. To get started, send us an email at info@11OaksRealty.com, fill out our Relocation Survey or call us at (512) 827-8323. In the meantime, learn more about relocating to Austin in our Guide to Relocating to Austin and learn more about our home buyer representation program in our Austin Home Buyers section.